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November 2020 Obituaries

Our summary of those the
classical music world has lost this month


Here are brief details of some of the people lost to the classical music world during November 2020. May they rest in peace.

German Grieg scholar, musicologist and teacher Hella Brock died in Dippoldiswalde from COVID-19 on 30 November, aged 101. Born Hella Maria Siegmund-Schultze in Wittenberg on 3 October 1919, she studied musicology, music teaching, piano and English literature at the University of Breslau. She continued her studies in Vienna, at the University of Vienna and the Vienna Academy of Music. She was the founding director of the Institute for Music Education at the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-University in Greifswald, and in 1963 she became professor of theory and methodology of music education. During this time her association with Norway and Grieg began, when she invited Norwegian musicologist Olav Gurvin to lecture on Grieg. She became professor of cultural studies and German studies at the Karl-Marx-Universität Leipzig in 1972, and retired in 1980. In 1985 she obtained permission from the East German authorities to travel to Olso for research. She learnt Norwegian and collaborated with researchers at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, publishing important material about Grieg in German. Later she became closely involved in the successful preservation of Grieg's former workplace in Leipzig, becoming the first president of the 'Grieg Meeting Place' association, which opened its doors to the public in 2005. She led two Grieg conferences in 2004 and 2008.

Italian soprano Cecilia Fusco passed away on 26 November, aged eighty-seven. She was born on 10 June 1933 into a musical family in Rome, where she studied at the Conservatorio Santa Cecilia and won Italian broadcaster RAI's Puccini Competition. First appearing as Gilda in Rigoletto at Genoa in 1958, her singing career continued until the late 1970s, during which she performed at many Italian opera houses and also at Barcelona's Liceu, in Brussels at La Monnaie, the Cairo Opera House, at Expo 1970 in Osaka, Salle Pleyel in Paris, New York's Carnegie Hall, at the Royal Albert Hall in London and in Antwerp and Copenhagen. She collaborated with Renato Fasano's I Virtuosi dell'Opera di Roma, specialising in sixteenth and seventeenth century Italian operatic and chamber repertoire. During and after the 1990s she began a new career as a voice teacher in Italy in various conservatories and by giving masterclasses at various locations.

Cecilia Fusco (1933-2020) in Rossini's 'La cambiale di matrimonio' in Tokyo in 1970
Cecilia Fusco (1933-2020) in Rossini's La cambiale di matrimonio in Tokyo in 1970

Bulgarian tenor Kamen Tchanev's international career was cut short on 26 November, when he died in Stara Zagora from COVID-19, aged fifty-six. He was born on 27 August 1964 at Silven. He studied at the Bulgarian State Music Academy 'Pancho Vladigerov' and then in Rome at the Boris Hristov Academy of Music and Arts. He began his career in 1993 at Sofia National Opera for five years, then worked at Prague State Opera for a couple of years before beginning a freelance career. He sang internationally, including in France, Germany, Italy, Romania, South Korea, Sweden and Switzerland. He made recordings for the Bulgarian and Italian national broadcasters and made a CD of arias with the Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Nayden Todorov for American label MMO.

Kamen Tchanev (1964-2020)
Kamen Tchanev (1964-2020)

American violinist Camilla Wicks passed away on 25 November, aged ninety-two. She was born on 9 August 1928 in Long Beach, California, into a family of professional musicians. (Her father Ingvald Kristian Eriksen Varhaugvik, born in Norway, was a well-known violinist and teacher.) She played Mozart's Violin Concerto No 4 at Long Beach Municipal Audiorium when she was only seven years old. At eight, she played the Bruch Concerto No 1 and at nine Paganini's first concerto. She studied at Juilliard with Louis Persinger and made her solo debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra when she was thirteen. She toured extensively, especially in Europe, where she was popular in Scandinavia and became an advocate of contemporary Scandinavian composers - Hilding Rosenberg, Fartein Valen, Harald Saeverud and Klaus Egge. She paused her international career in the 1950s, when she married and had children, but later became a popular teacher and gave occasional performances. She became head of the string department at the Oslo Royal Academy and became a Knight of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit for her services to music in Norway. Before her retirement in 2005, she also taught at the San Francisco Conservatory.

Camilla Wicks (1928-2020)
Camilla Wicks (1928-2020)


English music teacher, writer, composer, violinist and viola player Sheila Mary Nelson died in London on 16 November, aged eighty-three or eighty-four, following a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. She was born in 1936 and studied at the Royal College of Music in London and also at Birmingham University and in Denmark. A Churchill Fellowship enabled her to study with Paul Rolland in the USA. In the 1980s she directed a new teaching project in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets which saw entire classes of children in a deprived area of London being taught strings and piano. Her music instruction and repertoire books were published by Boosey & Hawkes. Known mostly as a violin and viola teacher, she also played with the English Chamber Orchestra, Menuhin Festival Orchestra and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Sheila M Nelson (1936-2020) in 2006
Sheila M Nelson (1936-2020) in 2006

Italian soprano Eugenia Ratti passed away in Piacenza on 16 November 2020, aged eighty-seven. Born in Genoa on 5 April 1933, she studied first with her mother, then privately with Tito Schipa. After her stage debut in 1954 at Sestri Levante, she began singing at Teatro alla Scala the following year, in the first production of David by Darius Milhaud. She also created the Sister Constance role in Dialogues des Carmélites by Francis Poulenc. Internationally she sang in Aix-en-Provence, Dallas, Edinburgh, Glyndebourne, at the 1955 Holland Festival, Munich State Opera, Paris Opéra, San Francisco Opera and at Vienna State Opera.

Eugenia Ratti (1933-2020)
Eugenia Ratti (1933-2020)

German flautist Konrad Hünteler died in Münster on 13 November, aged seventy-three. Born on 12 March 1947, he studied recorder and both transverse and baroque flute and became a specialist in Baroque music and historically informed performance. He performed as a soloist with the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir, Cappella Coloniensis, Collegium Aureum, the London Classical Players and the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century. He also taught flute from 1979 until 2012 at Musikhochschule Münster.

Indonesian composer and gamelan player Rahayu Supanggah passed away in Surakarta on 10 November 2020, aged seventy-one. He was born in Boyolali on 29 August 1949 into an artistic family - his father was a shadow puppet master and his mother played the gender, a metallophone used in gamelan music. He was known mostly for his role in the dance drama Realizing Rama and for the music he wrote for Robert Wilson's music theatre work I La Galigo. He created over a hundred works and collaborated with film makers and with another Indonesian composer, Slamet Abdul Sjukur, the 'founding father of contemporary Indonesian music'. Known by many as Panggah, Rahayu Supanggah was resident artist at the Southbank Centre in London, UK from 2007.

Turkish composer, conductor, pianist and singer Timur Selçuk died on 6 November 2020, aged seventy-four, in Istanbul. He was born in the same city on 2 July 1946 into a musical family - his father was the neoclassical composer and tenor Münir Nurettin Selçuk. He began playing the piano at five and gave his first concert at seven. He studied at Istanbul Municipal Conservatory and at the École Normale de Musique de Paris. He founded and conducted the Istanbul Chamber Orchestra. His chansons became very popular and he wrote lots of film and theatre music.

Lithuanian composer Faustas Latėnas passed away in Vilnius on 3 November, aged sixty-four. Born at Dusetos on 16 May 1956, he studied composition at the Kaunas Juozo Gruodžio Conservatory with Giedrius Kuprevičius and then at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre with Eduardas Balsys. He mostly wrote incidental music and scores for film and TV. He also worked as a diplomat, politician and theatre manager.

Czech soprano and teacher Eva Zikmundová died in Prague on 1 November 2020, aged eighty-eight. Born at Kroměříž on 4 May 1932, she studied at the Brno Conservatory, Brno JAMU and Prague HAMU, but was mostly influenced by private studies with Přemysl Kočí. For over thirty years she was a soloist with the National Theatre Opera Ensemble. She appeared in a large number of Czech works, including as the title role Dvořák's Rusalka and as Mlada and Vlasta in Fibich's Šárka, but also took roles in mainstream Austrian, German, Italian and Russian repertoire. She was also a regular guest perormer at Deutsche Staatsoper in Berlin and also appeared in Budapest, Genoa and Venice. After retiring from singing professionally, she was an assistant director at Prague State Opera and taught at the Conservatory in Teplice.

Posted 29 November 2020 by Keith Bramich




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